Department of Radiation Oncology

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In the Spotlight

Special Superhero and Cartoon Masks Bring Joy to Pediatric Patients

Pediatric radiation therapy masks created by our  Radiation Therapists.

​When you think of Batman, Spiderman and Minnie Mouse, you think of superheroes, cartoons, movies and Disneyland. But a group of radiation therapy technologists are using these characters to help their tiniest cancer patients feel less anxious during treatment.

For about five years now, a team of radiation therapy technologists (RTT's) have been decorating masks that patients are required to wear during treatment. The masks are made to resemble some of their favorite superhero and cartoon characters.

“While the idea of treatment can be scary, especially for young kids, the masks at least for a moment help distract and comfort patients during the process," said radiation therapist Seth Morgan.

The idea came to the group of RTT's one day when they realized that there had to be a way to make pediatric patients feel more comfortable during the daunting treatment process. During treatment, the mask allows the patient's body to be kept still in the same position immobilized while the machine rotates around them.

The RTT's started out by decorating a mask to resemble Batman. As time went on, they began receiving requests from patients including Elsa from Frozen and Mickey Mouse.  It's a program that the RTT's hope to continue for years to come.

“We love doing things like this for our pediatric patients, even if it means working after hours on a mask," said Morgan.  

Stanford Emanuel Radiation Oncology Center Adds Second Linear Accelerator

New machine doubles treatment capacity

Drs. Quoc Luu and Sandra Zaky pose with Emanuel Medical Center's new linear accelerator.

A treatment center at Turlock’s Emanuel Medical Center now has double the capacity for treating patients with cancer. The Stanford-Emanuel Radiation Oncology Center has added a second linear accelerator for delivering doses of radiation to treat malignant tumors.

The center on East Tuolumne Road is a joint venture of Emanuel and Stanford Health Care and began treating cancer patients from the Central Valley in 2007. The recent expansion just happened to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the partnership.

Alisa Ward, the center’s manager, said the facility has been treating up to 45 patients a day, more than twice the normal patient load, so the decision was made to install a second linear accelerator. The second machine is a multimillion-dollar investment.

“Our reputation has grown over the years,” Ward said in explaining the growing number of patients. “The patients come from all over the Central Valley, but mostly from Stanislaus and Merced counties.” Because of the influx of patients, some people could not be scheduled for treatment during normal business hours. Some appointments were as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 9 p.m.

The new machine was installed and tested over the summer and was put into use in late October.

Lung Cancer Recurrence, Predictable at Last?

Max Diehn, MD, PhD and Aadel Chaudhuri, MD, PhD interviewed by Inside Science

When lung cancer is caught in its earliest stages, before the tumors have spread to other organs, people face the prospect of radiation, chemo, surgery or some combination of the three, and for many, outcomes are good. Through treatment, lung cancer can be cured.

But for far too many others, treatment fails. Sick cells socked away in the bulbous pockets of the lungs survive, and tumors later recur -- one of the reasons why lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States and around the world.

Now, a new blood test may be able to tell doctors which patients still harbor cancer cells in their bodies after initial treatment, which could help address one of the problems with managing early-stage lung cancer: the inability to tell when someone is actually cured.

Study Uncovers Mutation that Supercharges Tumor-suppressor

Laura Attardi, PhD featured by Stanford Medicine

Cancer researchers have long hailed p53, a tumor-suppressor protein, for its ability to keep unruly cells from forming tumors. But for such a highly studied protein, p53 has hidden its tactics well.

Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine  have tapped into what makes p53 tick, delineating a clear pathway that shows how the protein mediates anti-tumor activity in pancreatic cancer. The team’s research also revealed something unexpected: A particular mutation in the p53 gene amplified the protein’s tumor-fighting capabilities, creating a “super tumor suppressor.”

The protein functions a bit like a puppet master in the genome, guiding the activation or suppression of many cancer-relevant genes in the body. “But if you simply ask how cells with and without p53 are different, you’ll see that there are at least 1,000 genes whose expression is affected by p53 status,” said Laura Attardi, PhD, professor of radiation oncology and of genetics. “So, getting to the bottom of which of those many genes are critical to tumor suppression is not a trivial question.”

Jiangbin Ye, PhD Awarded 2017 Mary Kay Foundation Research Grant

Dr. Ye granted $100,000 for breast cancer research

Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology, Jiangbin Ye, PhD was awarded the 2017 Mary Kay Foundation Innovative Cancer Research Grant for his project titled, "Targeting serine and one-carbon unit metabolism in metastatic breast cancer." Grants are awarded each year to researchers at accredited medical schools recommended by The Mary Kay Foundation Research Review Committee, which is composed of prominent doctors who volunteer their time to help The Foundation select the best recipients across the United States. The Mary Kay Foundation focuses on funding translational research in ovarian, uterine, breast, or cervical cancer and Dr. Ye's research  aligns well with their mission of curing cancers that affect women.

Sarah S. Donaldson, MD, FASCO, named inaugural recipient of Women Who Conquer Cancer

The Conquer Cancer Foundation (CCF) presented its first annual Women Who Conquer Cancer Mentorship Award to Sarah S. Donaldson, MD, FASCO, a globally recognized pediatric radiation oncology expert, inspiring professor, and devoted mentor, during the 2016 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in June. 

An esteemed faculty member since 1973 and the unofficial "heart and soul of radiation oncology" at Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Donaldson is perhaps most widely known for her decades-long research and contributions related to improving quality of treatment and of life for children with cancer. Yet, it is her unwavering dedication to mentorship that distinguishes her as the utmost role model to young women oncologists today.

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